- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

If you have been putting off seeing local favorites Saffire, the Uppity Blues Women, plan to see them this weekend at the Birchmere. The sassy trio will perform two nights at the club, beginning tomorrow, in what will likely be their last D.C. area performance before going on hiatus in October.

"We're taking a step back and cutting down on our touring for a while," says musician-vocalist Andra Faye. She says that during the break, both she and pianist-vocalist Ann Rabson will be taking on some solo projects and guitarist-vocalist Gaye Adegbalola will use the rest to recuperate from some recent health problems.

"We're gonna have some irregular tours and be performing less often, but we love playing together, and we all love it too much to officially retire," she says.

The joy the women have for their music is evident in the group's most recent album, "Ain't Gonna Hush." It's an acoustic collection of piano-driven boogie, storytelling ballads and "uppity" blues. Nearly every track, even the ones rooted in hurt, is sung with clarity, wisdom and a wink that says they've been around the block enough to know a smile is just around the corner.

Miss Faye says that as "women of a certain age," they have all experienced the ups and downs of life, but, "We're all in really good places right now. We like to joke that 'Ain't Gonna Hush' has more love songs on it than any other Saffire album."

Many of the love songs have a raciness to them that makes one think certain 20-year-old pop stars should quit their moaning and grunting and start taking notes from these women.

Four-letter words such as "kiss," "love" and "lips" in songs such as "Footprints on the Ceiling" and "Coffee Flavored Kisses" generate more heat than any too-hot-for-MTV video. Saffire's joyfully suggestive lyrics leave the sweaty, dirty work to the youngsters; these uppity blues women just wanna have fun.

"Some people aren't comfortable with people older than 20 talking about sex," Miss Faye says with a smile. "but we're three very earthy women, and we have a great sense of humor."

Their wit, which is obvious in their songs, has a chance to shine in the onstage banter during Saffire's live performances. Working without set lists Miss Faye says that most nights they "don't even know who's gonna start until we get onstage" they often encourage the audience to request songs.

"If we don't feel like doing it, we'll just make some sort of joke, and then that will usually lead to another and another until it's just turned on its head," she says. "It kinda feels like you're in our living room," Miss Faye says. "We're really blessed to be living this crazy musical life."

"Someone once asked me, 'How long does it take you to make an album?' and, it's like, the real answer to that is, 'All my life,'" says singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer, who will perform Saturday night at Jammin' Java.

"As a writer, I really found my voice in my 30s," she explains. "Not that I didn't have anything to say when I was 19, but there's a progression; writing gets deeper as you live more."

Consequently, she says she's especially proud of her ninth and latest album, "The Gathering of the Spirits." Taking the lyrical honesty of folk and country music, the textured harmonies of bluegrass and the aestheticism of classical, her music is most at home in the open space of what's being called Americana.

In songs such as "Silver," "Holy as the Day Is Spent" and the title track, Miss Newcomer's rich alto takes small, humble bits of life folded laundry, a busy street, a thrown kiss and makes them meaningful.

"We have the big things, like anniversaries and birthdays, but much of our life is lived in the small moment," she says. "What I'm really trying to do is home in on that honest statement. I don't have anything to tell you but the truth; the best songs kind of make you say, 'I know that truth' or, 'I never thought of that before.'"

Although "The Gathering of Spirits" was recorded with a full backing band that included strings, piano and a rhythm section in addition to Miss Newcomer's guitar, for her appearance at Jammin' Java, she will be joined by pianist Winton Reynolds. She says that while she loves the interaction she has with a full band, she also loves the intimacy that is created by paring it down.

"All these songs were originally performed solo," she says. "When I write them, I have the idea in mind that I can stand up with my guitar and sing them. What Winton and I have been doing together is very true to the feel of that."

She adds that she enjoys being on the road because it feeds her wanderlust and because she enjoys taking in the personalities of each city and its audiences, whether it's the polite clappers in Minnesota or the rowdy crowds of Texas.

"I feel really fortunate that I get to do the thing I love," Miss Newcomer says. "I have a thing that I shouldn't be performing unless I can send that love out there and give it hard and sometimes, they'll give it back to you so hard, it knocks you down."

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